Getting over the nuclear bogeyman
Nuclear energy has long been hated, feared and, where possible, banned outright. But it is arguably among the cleanest, most reliable, renewable power sources in existence. Could it yet become the base load power source in a post-fossil fuel world?
The World Economic Forum’s John Letzing writes:
A next generation of nuclear reactors could improve safety and efficiency. “Small modular reactors” may produce less energy individually, but can be scaled up as needed. They also include added safety features.
One company founded by Bill Gates has developed a “Natrium” reactor technology that stores heat in molten salt and is designed to work well with renewables. It recently announced plans for a pilot project in Wyoming.
About 440 reactors – the number of operable reactors has remained relatively flat for decades – currently supply about 10% of the world’s electricity. However, dozens more are under construction.
That’s all good news. Perhaps not surprisingly, most of the new nuclear energy construction is in China, which is on pace to be the biggest developer of nuclear power in the world:
During their 13th Five-Year Plan period from 2016 to 2020, China built 20 new nuclear power plants with a total capacity of 23.4 GW, doubling their total capacity to 47 GW. And that is expected to happen again during their next 5-year plan, which has a new target of 70GW of nuclear generation before 2025. And it keeps going.
According to Luo Qi of China’s Atomic Energy Research Initiative, “By 2035, nuclear plants in operation should reach around 180 GW” which will be more nuclear than the United States and France combined. China is even setting up a nuclear university in Tianjin to train nuclear workers for this expansion.
The west should be just as aggressive in pursuing nuclear power. Refusing to do so is caving in to fear, denying science…and reinforcing the expectation that the future belongs to Chinese autocrats.